Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Red, Purple, And Blue

http://www.citylab.com; March 22, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Today we have a Tuesday edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Human Typist has an appointment tomorrow and will not be available to do Blogger's work.  

Red, purple, and blue?  Is the American flag changing colors?  Relax, not happening in the near or distant future.  Really, Jed Kolko looks at what happens when populations in blue counties move to red counties.  Specifically, he looks at how this trend affects the latest census data in his CityLab article "Red Counties + Blue Folks =  Purple?  Reading the New Census Data?"  The 2017 Census (census.gov; date accessed Mar. 27, 2018) for local population, recently released, "show that Americans are moving from blue counties to red counties, and at a quickening pace."  This demographic trend has steadily accelerated since 2012, and the biggest increase is in the deep counties-where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handily bested Republican nominee Donald Trump by at least 20 percent.  Mr. Kolko writes, "Blue and red refer to whether Clinton or Trump got more votes in 2016; dark and light refer to whether the margin at least 20 percentage point.  Data on voting as not available counties, which were omitted."

What is powering this trend?  The ongoing suburbanization (fivethirtyeight.com; Mar. 23, 2017; date access Mar. 27, 2018) of the United States (citylab.com; Feb. 28, 2015; date accessed Mar. 27, 2018) underscores this move red counties.  Mr. Kolko sounds an optimistic note for blue counties, "But the news isn't all grim for blue America.  Blue counties got a population boost from international migration, partly offsetting losses from domestic migration."  Further, the fastest growing red counties are tilting left and could flip in the coming midterm election.

Jed Kolko reports, "The Census breaks population growth into three components: net domestic migration, international migration, and natural increase (births and death)."  We begin with domestic migration "which accounts for most of the difference the Census shows in population growth."  In 2017 (specifically the Census year ending July 1, 2017), dark blue counties experienced a minuscule 0.7 drop in population, the result of domestic migration--"in other words, more people moved out of these counties to the rest of American than moved in."  The light blue counties only experienced a slight drop, while the red counties saw more people moving in than moving out.  "The flow of people blue to red counties has picked up in recent years, steadily increasing since 2012."  You can see a chart on "Net domestic migration by county, by 2016 vote" at citylab.com; Mar. 22, 2018.

However, international and natural increase migration balance out some of the domestic movement from blue to red counties.  Mr. Kolko reports, "International migration contributed six times as much population growth in dark-blue counties as dark-red counties."  In other words, "80 percent of net international migration in 2017 was in blue counties, and 56 percent in dark-blue counties."  Further, natural--i.e. birth minus deaths--also skewed in favor of the blue counties, the reason being red counties tend to be older, thus higher mortality rates.  Mr. Kolko writes, "The contribution of birth to population growth is similar in red and blue counties, on average, and there are both red and blue places where birth rates are high."  Demographic growth due to higher birth rates are evident in counties with higher Latino (theglobalist.com; Feb. 14, 2017; date accessed Mar. 27, 2018) or Mormon (paw research.org; May 22, 2015; date accessed Mar. 27, 2018) populations.  Among large metropolitans, no big surprise, demographic growth is greater in dark blue El Paso and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas and dark red Provo-Orem and Ogdan-Clearfield, Utah.  See the chart "Components of population change,by 2016 vote" at citylab.com; Mar. 22, 2018

If we combine all avenues of population changes--domestic, international, and natural increase migration--we see that dark blue counties experienced slower growth than other counties, and grew more slowly than previous year.  See "County population growth, by 2016 vote" chart at citylab.com; Mar. 22, 2018.  

Jed Kolko points out, "The differences between red and blue counties counties echo the broader trend toward the continued suburbanization of America."  In essence, "Urban counties of large metros are now growing slowly; they also tend to be dark blue [jedkolko.com; date accessed Mar. 27, 2018].  The fastest-growth counties are the lower-density suburbs of large metros, which lean red [Ibid]."  The exception being non-metropolitan areas, which lean heavily red, have a experienced demographic stagnation or shrinkage.  Therefore, "while red America includes booming suburbs its also includes struggling rural areas."  See "Population change, by place type" chart at citylab.com; Mar. 22, 2018.

What does this mean for Democrats and Republicans?  Will the Repbulicans reap the benefits and Democrats be left crying in their blue beer?  Not exactly.  While red counties may boast being magnets for people, it is possible that "the blue-to-red migrants adopt some of the political view of their new neighbors."  However, it is also possible that blue-to-red migrants could bring their politics with them.  Check out the 2016 essay titled "Go Midwest Young Hipster" (nytimes.com; Oct. 22, 2016; date access Mar. 27, 2018) went as far as to suggest "migration as a political strategy to help Democrats win outside their traditional strongholds."  Possible.  However, we are seeing Democrats scoring victories, at the state- and federal-level, in traditionally Republican districts. Think Conor Lamb's recent razor thin victory in Pennsylvania and Democratic wins in Virginia and New Jersey.

Nevertheless, the latest Census population data gives an incomplete picture of voting trends.  The current information does not tell us the demographics, politics, or anything else about the individuals Who migrate from blue to red counties.  However, one hint might be in how the nature of politics in fast-growing places are shifting.  Mr. Kolko writes, "Among red counties there's a huge difference between places that are swinging right and those moving toward."  Among the red counties there is a big difference between places that tilt right and those gravitating toward the center.  In counties that Mr. Trump won in 2016, "but voted at least 10 percent for Romney in 2012,--" i.e., those that drifted toward the center in in 2016--"population grew at 2.5 percent in 2017, more than three times the national growth rate of 0.7 percent."  These places includes Sunbelt counties in metropolitans such as Atlanta and Dallas, as well as a number of counties in Utah.  However, counties that flipped from President Obama in 2012 to Mr. Trump in 2016--"including many counties in New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan--grew on average just 0.2 percent in 2017."

What can we conclude about these migratory trends?  The midterm electoral map will reflect a shifting population blue to red and red counties drifting left.  This may be good news for the Democrats but they should not just rely on this latest Census data.  Get out and knock on every door.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Out Of The Ashes Comes An Opportunity

http://www.citylab.com; March 20, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to an abbreviated week on The Blog.  Human Typist has an appointment on Wednesday so The Blogger Candidate Forum will appear on Tuesday, instead of its regularly scheduled Wednesday appearance.

Bravo to Emma Gonzales, David Hogg, Sam Ziff, Cameron Kasky, and the student organizers of the #MarchForOurLives the past Saturday, March 24. You are strong and brave.  You have an ally at historicpca.blogspot.com.  Blogger understands that there are those of you who disagree with the goals of The March.  That is okay, you are entitled to respectfully state your opinion.  Instead of engaging these articulate students in meaningful coversation, you demean them.  You created scurrilous memes, name calling, dismissing it as a product of "liberal Hollywood billionaires," puppets of the Democratic National Committee, and so forth.  Keep this in mind, some of them are old enough, or will be, to vote in November.  They will remember what side of the gun control issue you are on, as will their allies.  Blogger would like to remind you to follow these courageous young people and register to vote.   On to today's subject.

Natural and man-made disasters are devasting for communities but once they pass, something beautiful can grow out of the destruction.  This is what happened in Clarkesville, Georgia.  It is located in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, about 85 miles north of Atlanta.  In March 2014, fire tore through the city's downtown square (nowhabersham.com; Apri. 6 2017; Mar. 26, 2018), destroying a quarter of the square.    Clarkesville city manager  Barbara Kesler spoke with Adina  Solomon in Ms. Solomon's CityLab article "In a Historic Downtown, Disaster Becomes a Chance to Build Something Better," that one of the best days of her life came three years after the fire.  Ms. Kesler recalled,

The day that we did the ribbon-cutting and opening the spaces, it was overwhelmingly emotional and very positive for the community,.... It was something we had worked so hard for.

It was a ribbon-cutting that nearly did not take place.

Clarkesville's economic development director Mary Beth Horton remembered,

This is like the worst nightmare for someone who's in downtown development.  You come home for work one day and everything's fine.  You wake up the next morning and half your downtown is gone and they you've got to somehow figure out how it's all going to come together.

This is a familiar lament for many cities, that have been affect by hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, and other disasters.  Ms. Solomon cites the example of Bothell, Washington, near Seattle.  She writes, "A fire in the historic downtown of Bothell, Washington,...., destroyed at least 15 businesses [komonews.com; date accessed Mar. 26, 2018] in July 2016."  Ellicott City, Maryland experienced a catastrophic  flood that wrecked (inquisitr.com; July 31, 2016; date accessed Mar. 26, 2018) most of the historic downtown, collapsing portions of Main Street.  In February, a block in downtown Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, home to a number of businesses, went up in flames (wearegreenbay.com; July 1, 2014; date accessed Mar. 26. 2018).

Adina Solomon points out, "But with the right steps, cities can rebuild after disaster.  To understand how, just start with Clarkesville."

Following the Clarkesville fire, "about 30 employees from the businesses that burned down had nowhere to work."  Ms. Kesler said, "the Georgia Department of Labor drove a bus to town two days after the fire, and for several days, the bus was open to help place people at other businesses."  Within a week, nearly all of the former employees had new jobs.

The next step in the recovery process was fixing the downtown.  The businesses owners of the damaged buildings could not afford rebuilding process.  Further, six months after the fire, no one stepped forward to take on the task.  Ms. Solomon reports, "...Clarkesville bought four properties for $400,000, plus one property it received through donation."  Ms. Horton said "this was necessary to salvage downtown."

Mary Beth Horton continues,

Of course, you're always met with, 'Oh well, this is government taking over property, and all this kind of stuff, and yes, it is,.... But at the same time, we have an allegiance to our town and we can't let half of our town just sit there burnt down without stepping in and doing something, so we just had to get very proactive very quickly.

Clarkesville Mayor Barrie Aycock added,

That was the only way that it could be built in a way that would be an asset to the town.

The rebuilding effort was more than just repairing and replacing the damaged structures.  "Clarkesville decided to restore the 120-year-old buildings, but also to pair the work with an expansive master plan for the downtown area."  The city turned to the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government for guidance.

In order to know which projects to focus its efforts, civic officials asked for input from residents, business owners, and visitors.  Ms. Horton organized focus groups and mailed out surveys, with over half of Clarkesville's 1,733 residency responded.  She credits much of the success of the restoration to public involvement.

Adina Solomon writes, "The consensus was to preserve the historic building, and ground broke on the square in April 2016.  In a row of three building on the square, middle one had burned down, and when Clarkesville added a firewall to make the remaining buildings structurally sound, there wasn't enough space for a third building.  So they made it into an open-air-plaza that connects square to nearby Washington Street."

The rebuilding project, including the purchase of the buildings, cost $3 million.  "Without grants--which funded 40 percent [news.uga.edu; Dec. 11, 2017; date accessed Mar. 26, 2018] of that--and the city's planning efforts, Clarkesville's rebuild wouldn't have happened."

The ribbon-cutting Barbara Kesler had been waiting for, finally came a year later.  She told Ms. Solomon,

The city made the commitment not to let downtown die,... Because it would've died if we would've left it there.

Clarkesville resident Deb Kilgore now makes her home in an apartment built over a previously damaged buildings, a project suggested by public feedback.  It is a single two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit over a street-level retail business in one of the rebuilt structures.  Ms. Kilgore told Ms. Solomon, The community came together to support the city's endeavors.

The rebuilding process inspired smaller projects: "removing outdated parking signs; improving streetscapes with sidewalks, lighting, and planters; and painting a scenic view of Clarkesville on a plain-looking building, enhancing the entrance to downtown."

The restoration of Clarkesville's downtown offers other cities, facing similar situations, a few good lessons.

First, public involvement is crucial.  Not only were the adult residents part of the process, Clarkesville also established a Main Street committee composed of high school students.

Danny Bivens, a senior public service associate at the Vinson Institute who worked with Clarkesville, told CityLab,

When these buildings were built back, people could look at it and shake their in approval because it was their ideas,.... If you talk to people, they know what the issues are in the community.  They have the solutions.

Another lesson comes from "Lean Urbanism--accomplishing quicker, less expensive projects while also working on the projects while also working on the projects that take considerable time and money."

Mr. Bivens continued,

If you're not in local government and you go and you give your input, you talk about changes that you want to see, and then you don't hear anything back for seven years, that can be disconcerting.... It's really important for us to have some short-term success that people can see, that their energy and their input is being used.

Ms. Kesler suggests "not to rush projects, but to make clear commitments on time and budget."

Mary Beth Horton said, "a rebuild requires constant communication with the public."  Clarkesville made public how long each project would take as they happened and posted renderings on how they would look when completed.  The steady stream of communications reassured residents like Ms. Kilgore.  She said,

 It was important for people to know that the city was serous about rebuilding and being able to see what was going on.

The cliche "chaos and opportunity are two sides of the same coin" applies in post-disaster situations.  Rebuilding after a category five hurricane, for example, can lead to action.  After the fire in Bothell, the city was able to secure long-sought funds to redevelop its Main Street.  In addition to rebuilding its downtown after the fire, Clarkesville created community events to bring more people downtown.

Mary Beth Horton said,

The fire was such a devastation to us, but there was such a silver lining in it, because had it not been for that, we probably would not have done all the different things that we've done for the entire downtown as a whole,.... All that sort of happened on the tail end of this fire, because we realized we just had the opportunity to do all of this, and we jumped on it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Is There Such A Thing As A Good Electoral Map?


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a rainy day edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  The Human Typist decided that she had enough of dodging an early spring storm, currently soaking Southern California, and decided to seek shelter.  We cannot have Human Typist messing up her hair or neatly applied makeup, now can we?  Alright, enough about that, shall we move on to today's subject gerrymandering and commuter patterns?  

When we last took up the subject of gerrymandering, about two months ago, we looked at an upcoming Pennsylvania State Supreme Court case that would force the state to re-draw its congressional districts so that they were more evenly distributed between Democrats and Repbulicans.  We will be returning to this later in the post.  One thing is for sure, gerrymandering is bad; it unfairly tips the political scales in one direction or another. In addition to one-sided election results, a gerrymandered map is objectionable because the bizarrely draw districts do not correspond to any and all relevant geographical data.  You do not have to take Blogger's word for it, you just have to check out to Garret Dash Nelson's CityLab article "What Would a Good Electoral Map Even Look Like?"  Excellent question when you consider this statement from Mr. Nelson, "People have emotional and political attachments to all sorts of geographic entities: jurisdictions like states and cities as well as cultural regions like the Bay Area or Appalachia."  Seriously, do any of you think that Human Typist introduces herself as a proud resident of CA-33 (her congressional district) or has its boundaries tattooed on some part of her anatomy?  A No to both questions.

To quantify just how politically unfair gerrymandering is, "we can count up partisan demographics and look at election results."  However, the more difficult task would gauging how well or poorly the map matches up with the patterns of human geography. While many states mandate the districting process respect "so-called 'communities of interest,'" how they defined and delineated remains an open question, therefore these requirements rarely carry any legal weight.

However, there is a way to follow the geographic framework of a community by studying the networks that bind places together.  One network that is particularly crucial and fairly easy to measure and map is commuter patterns.  Mr. Nelson writes, "In the study of networks, a 'community' is defined as a group of objects that have relatively dense set of connections among each other, and a relatively weak set of connections beyond."  He does concede that this definition "is much thinner than our social and political concepts of 'community,' it does have the advantage of being measurable."

Using community structure of a network, as opposed to the assigned voting districts, offer the possibility of checking whether or not an electoral preserves "communities of interest."  Mr. Nelson argues that "a good map, seen from this perspective, would keep areas that are connected by commuter webs together in the same district as much as possible."  By contrast, "a bad map would slice up commuter regions, fracturing cities and confecting electoral districts out or places that have relatively less connection with one another."

How would a network scientist measure whether or not an electoral district preserves a "community of interest?"  These scholarly women and men developed a statistic called "modularity" which gauges how good (or bad) a proposed electoral district matches up with the established structure of connections within a given network.  Think of it "as a ratio between the number of communities which stay inside of the borders of a single district versus the number of commutes which cut across district lines."  Mr. Nelson humorously named this measure the "Elbridge score (Electoral Boundary Resemblance to Identifiable Geography)" after the 19th century Massachusetts governor and gerrymandering namesake Elbridge Gerry (blogs.loc.gov; Feb. 10, 2017; date accessed Mar. 21, 2018) .

Garret Dash Nelson's own methodology is fairly straightforward.  He used "data set of millions of commutes--the same one that my colleague Alasdair Rae and I used to redraw the map of the U.S. commuter 'megaregions'--to compare congressional maps."  What Mr. Nelso discovered was an enormous variation in context to how well congressional districts pair with commuter regions made up of interconnected urban, suburban, rural areas.  The five states that did well were: Kansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennssee.  Each has a fairly even population distribution at a distance from each other.  Mr. Nelson notes, "This makes some intuitive sense.  Because the population of a U.S. Congressional district is standardized at around 700,000 people, the easiest states to divide into fair districts will be the ones which are already roughly split up into commuter zones of roughly 700,000 each."

One example, which can be viewed at citylab.com is a map of Indiana's commuter patterns ("only the ones that both begin and end within the state") overlaid on the state's congressional districts.  Mr. Nelson points that each district "encloses a fairly self contained set of commutes, usually centered around ne of the state's major cities."  The commutes are illustrated in purple if they start and stop within the district's boundaries, orange if they cross districts.  The map does a good job of maintainin commutes within district boundaries.

You can compare these evenly divided mostly Midwestern states with the five worst states: Rhode Island, Hawai'i, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Nevada--all "characterized by heterogenous geography and difficult-to-contain urban clusters."  An example is all two of Rhode Island's congressional districts which slice through the capital city of Providence.  Downtown Boise, Idaho is located in the second district, but the majority of the city's populous western suburbs are situated in the first district.  In each instance, as the map of Rhode Island indicates, a huge portion of commuters live and work across district boundary lines.

This begs the question, "why aren't the state's that are most notoriously gerrymandered, like Pennsylvania and North Carolina at the bottom of the Elbridge scores?"  The reason is that each state is different--some are large, rectilinear, and evenly distributed and others have disparate population and urban development concentrations--that it is difficult to compare this score across state lines.  Therefore, Garret Dash Nelson proposes, "It's more useful, then, to test multiple proposed maps in one state against another.  By keeping the underlying geography of a state constant, we can see how well--or how poorly-- proposed maps fits a state's 'communities of interest' defined by commuter connections."

Returning to the State of Pennslyvania.  Comparing the Elbridge scores between the state's current gerrymandered map and the new map the state Supreme Court issued in February "suggests pretty convincingly that the current map cuts the state up into areas that don't match very well with commuter-based communities."  The gerrymandered version scored a mere 0.58; by contrast, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Map rated a 0.65, and another proposed fair map scored 0.66.

Another way to diagram the same measurement, instead of mapping it out, is creating a matrix of a state's electoral districts, an counting the commutes between each district in each of the cell.  Mr. Nelson writes, "In a perfect (and impossible) districting scheme, all of the commutes would lie along the diagonal of the matrix, since they would begin and end in the same district."  If you check out citylab.com, you can see the matrix that Mr. Nelson generated for Kansas and Nevada; two of the best and worst scorers.  He explains, "The number at each cell represents the percentage of the state's total number of commutes.  In Kansas, nearly everybody lives and works in the same congressional district.  In Neveada,..., a lot of people live in one district and work in another--a consequence of the fact that job-rich Las Vegas lies in its own NV-01, while the city's suburbs lie in NV-03 and NV-04."

Important thing to pay attention to, "there's a big conceptual leap between commuter connections and fully-constituted 'communities of interest.'"  Essentially, commuter networks do not record people who are not part of the workforce.  Further, they completely ignore some of the most significant ties that bind a community together such as: friendships, family networks, cultural ties, or ecology--then there the subjective unquantifiable elements that make places and political community more cohesive.

Attempting to pair electoral districts to the actual geography of "communities of interest" creates some complicated choices about the things we value.  For example, if you are interested in equatable housing or re-districting transit authority jurisdiction, tracing the geography of a commuter area is a logical decision.  However, if your goal is "to balance out partisanship at a federal level and make elections more competitive, then it doesn't necessarily follow that districts should follow functional geography."  Just the opposite may be true, given that Americans are increasingly concentrated in politically-likeminded geographies.

Garrett Dash Nelson uses this example: "which scenario would be preferable?  To vote in a geographically-coherent district together with lots of people with common interests, or in a district that doesn't make geographic sense but has an even mix of Deomcrats and Repbulicans?"  Think you know the right answer?  No, you do not because the answer really depends on other values like: "Are our representatives supposed to represent place-specific communities (in which case matching district boundaries to human geography is crucial) or do they just represent the interests of a national political party (in which case preserving local communities might be much less important)?"

These kinds of ideological and philosophical issues have been mostly passed over in the gerrymandering debate.  One thing is certain, we know what a bad electoral map looks like, but a good one is more difficult to figure out.


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

So Sue Us

http://www.nytimes.com; March 6, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum wanted to pop in for a Tuesday appearance.  The Forum would like to commend Mr. Trump for congratulating newly "re-elected" Russian President Vladimir Putin on his sham victory.  Do American presidents really congratulate dictators?  Are we doing that now?  Seriously?  Second, Cambridge Analytica.  Love the way Mr. Trump's campaign used the data company to mine and misuse personal data from at least 50 million Facebook users.  Slime upon slime when you consider that former White House strategist Steve Bannon is the company's former vice president and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was a consultant for Cambridge Analytica.  Anyway, The Forum has more important things to shake it well manicured finger at, like Mr. Trump's legal war on California.

Alright Mr. Trump, we, the good citizens of California get it.  You are not exactly our biggest fan.  You especially are not fan of our immigration policy.  You disagree with our immigration policy so much that recently filed a lawsuit as a sort of pre-emptive strike against our liberal sanctuary laws.  No worries, you can file all the lawsuits you want, just remember we have the most electoral votes and the largest representation in Congress.  You want anything passed or want to be re-elected, you have deal with us.  Allow Blogger to explain.

Katie Benner and Jennifer Medina report in their The New York Times article, "Trump Adminsitration Sues California Over Immigration Laws," "The Justice Department sued California; Gov. Jerry Brown; and the state's attorney general, Xavier Becerra, over three state laws passed in recent months, saying they made it impossible for federal immigration officials to do thei jobs and deport criminals who were born outside the United States."  The Justice Department deemed these laws unconstitutional and requested a judge to block them.

The lawsuit represents the DOJ's boldest strike against California, one of  staunchest opponents of the administration's efforts curtail immigration (nytimes.com; Jan. 18, 2017; date accessed Mar. 20, 2018).  It is also a warning to Democratic members of Congress and elected officials who promulgate sanctuary policies that provide protections for undocumented immigrants.

In planned remarks at a law enforcement event in California's capital city Sacramento , United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said,

The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going in to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you.... I believe that we are going to win.

Good luck.

The legal battle pits immigration hard liners Messr Trump and Sessions against Gov. Brown and Mr. Becerra, outspoken adversaries (Ibid; Jan. 7, 2018) "who have helped energized opposition to Mr. Trump and vowed to preserve the progressive values that they believe California embodies."

According to the lawsuit, the immigration policies,

...reflect a deliberate effort by California to obstruct the United States' enforcement of federal immigration law...

It goes on to say that "the laws regulate private entities that want to cooperate with the federal authorities and

...impede consultation and communication between federal and state law enforcement officials.

In a brilliant response, Gov. Brown called the lawsuit a political stunt, expertly trolling the president,

At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America...Jeff, these political stunt may be the norm in Washington, but they don't work here.  SAD!!!

California has been lock in combat with the Trump administration since the end of the 2016 Presidential Election, "standing in opposition on a number of issues, including marijuana, environmental regulations and taxes."  However, immigration had become the most contentious fight, "with local officials assuring undocumented immigration that they would do all they could to protect them."

In 2017, California enacted its sanctuary laws--as this week, the California declared itself a sanctuary state and is already facing a challenge from one Orange County city--which restricts how and when local law enforcement can work with federal immigration enforcement officers.  Both Messr Sessions and Trump have threatened to withdraw federal grant money from cities and states (Ibid; July 26, 2017) with sanctuary laws to shield undocumented immigrants.  The president and attorney general argue that "the policies flout federal laws and help criminals evade deportation."

Further, the DOJ asked 23 jurisdictions (Ibid; Jan. 24, 2018) across the nation this year to "provide documentation that they had not kept information from federal immigration authorities, or receive a subpoena for the information."  Additionally Justice is looking at possible criminal charges (Ibid; Jan. 18, 2018) for local politicians who pass sanctuary policies.  Nice, jail the opposition.

The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Federal District Court, is the first against jurisdiction or state over its immigration policies filed by Mr. Sessions' Department of Justice.  The DOJ has alluded to the possibility of other lawsuits against jurisdictions whose policies are at odds with the federal government's authority on immigration.  According to the Centern for Immigration Studies,"Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont have state sanctuary laws as do cities and counties in more than a dozen states,..."

The California Values Act, strictly curtails state and municipal agencies from sharing information with federal law enforcement officers about criminals or suspect unless they have been convicted of felony offenses.  The law took effect on January 1, 2018 and "was the centerpiece of the State Legislature's effort to thwart the Trumpadministration's immigration policies."

No sooner had the ink dried on the CVA, acting United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Thomas D. Homan announced that California should expect to see a lot more deportation officers and elected officials allied with the sanctuary laws should be arrested.  Yes, precisely.  Why not waste the precious time of police and sheriff's deputies by arresting civic leaders for acting on their political conscience.

To wit, Mr. Homan and three other immigration and border protection officials filed declarations, in conjunctions with the suit, "claiming that California's laws had already negatively affected their work."

Democratic California State Senate leader and candidate for United States Senator Kevin de Leon said,

The administration is just angry that state has stood up to them--one that embraces diversity and inclusivity and is the sixth-largest economy in the world thanks to the hard-working immigrants who want to become American citizens.

Mr. de Leon wrote one of the sanctuary city laws and is named in the suit.

The California state legislature also passed the Immigratin Worker Protection Act (oag.ca.gov; date accessed Mar. 20, 2018), which "prohibits local business from allowing immigration to gain access to employee records without a court order or subpoena."  State Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned that violators could face a fine of up to $10,000.

Putting its state funding where its immigration policy is, the current state budget includes a prohibition on new contracts for immigration detention and give the state attorney general the power to oversee all state immigration detention centers.

Further, the state, together with several jurisdictions including San Francico and Sacramento, have established legal defense funds to help defend immigrants during deportation matters.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg expressed his concern,

I'm worried about the 'Dreamers,' hard-working immigrants families and law-abiding who are just trying to make their like the rest us,.... Civil disobedience is a respectful way to show your love for country.

Tensions between local and federal officials came to boil two weeks ago, when Oakland, California mayor Libby Schaaf publicly warned (nytimes.com; Feb. 28, 2018; date accessed Mar. 20, 2018) of an impending ICE action.  Mr. Homan compared the mayor's action to a gang lookout yelling, Police! adding that "she gave people living in the United States illegally a chance to flee."  He said, "her warning meant that the federal immigration authorities arrested about 200 people rather than the 1,000 they anticipated rounding up."

Thomas Homan and other federal official have warned about putting California in its cross hairs as it increases immigration enforcement efforts, essentially, the number of people detained has not drastically increased to date.  Katie Benner and Jennifer Medina write, "In December, the most recent for which data is available 1,715 unauthorized immigrants in California were arrested by ICE, compared with 1,379 in December 2016."

The lawsuit over immigration is not the first time the DOJ sued a state.  During President Obama's administration, the department filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia (justice.gov; Aug. 23, 2016; date Mar. 20, 2018) for segregating disabled students from classrooms and sued North Carolina over its infamous HB1 which restricted bathroom use for transgender citizens (Ibid; May 9, 2016), later withdrawn by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Speaking on the phone with reporters,  California state attorney general Xavier Becerra expressed confidence that California would win in court; state and federal laws were not in conflict.  Mr. Becerra said,

In California, our state laws work in concert with federal law,.... Our teams work together to go after drug dealers and go after gang violence.  What we won't do is change from being focused on public safety.  We're in the business of public safety, not deportation.

Mr. Becerra was not surprised about the lawsuit, mentioning that the state had already scored legal battles against the current administration.  He said,

We've seen this B-rated movie before,.... We're not doing their bidding on immigration enforcement and deportation.

Nor should any state.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Coming Storm

http://www.citylab.com; March 8, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a fresh week on the blog.  If you have been following the real life soap opera that is the Trump administration, you probably know more than you need to about the abrupt dismissal of Federal Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and the lawsuit filed by the president's lawyers, against Stormy Daniels, claiming she violated the non-disclosure agreement.  Ick overload if you ask Blogger, who shared the current events, over dinner, with Blogger Mum.  Of course there was the expected weekend presidential Twitter rant.  Really, POTUS's lawyers should finally take away his phone, smashed, and toss into The Potomac River.  Alright, enough about that.  Shall we move on to something more constructive?

Since 1957, Toy "R" Us has been a part of American childhood.  Its familiar tag line, "I wanna be a Toys 'R' Us kid and its mascot Geoffrey the giraffe, were familiar to children everywhere.  Toys "R" Us has been a ubiquitous part of the American retail landscape like Macy's department store and Best Buy.  Laura Bliss writes in her CityLab article "The Ticking Time Bomb for Suburban Retail,"Thanks largely to the rise of e-commerce, chains like Macy's, Toys 'R' Us, and Best Buy are shuttering faster than analysts predicted even a year ago (bloomberg.com; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018) with at least 24 major retailers (foxbusinesses.com; Mar. 14, 2018; date accessed Mar.19, 2018) planning store closures in 2018 (clark.com; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018)."

According to some forecasters, there is a looming retail apocalypse looming in the horizon.  It is not just the fault of e-commerce.  Rick Stein, the founder of the Columbus, Ohio-based planning consulting firm Urban Decision Group, told Ms. Bliss, "As overbuilt malls, corporate mergers, and autonomous vehicles converge," the ingredients are in place for a major disruption.

Speaking at March 5th panel in Portland , Oregon, Mr. Stein laid out the circumstances for which commercial areas wil be hardest hit by new consumer habits combined with technology: suburban car-oriented retail.

Here is a real fact, "American retail is overbuilt by about 50 percent, according to Stein.  With about 24 square feet per capita, the U.S. has by far the most retail space of any country in the world, with about 25 percent more than the next closest country, Canada."  This is according to the information from the publicly traded real-estate group GGP and the financial blog Zero Hedge.  In Blogger's own neighborhood, there are two major malls within two miles of each other.

By contrast, megamalls, like Costa Mesa, California's South Coast Plaza, and luxury shopping centers in more affluent areas have been more successful, mid-sized to large "regional" retail hubs and strip malls (there 7,500) around the United States, are struggling with vacanies and decreasing profits (icsc.org; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018).  Ms. Bliss reports, "States like Nevada, Arizona, Vrginia, Ohio, and New Jersey have some of the most over abundant big box and strip mall properties, and they're increasingly overexposed as more Americans shop online and take advantage of fast delivery speeds."

Online retailers recognize "the need for speed."  Amazon offers "Prime Now," a two-hour delivery service on about 25,000 items to Prime members in at least 30 American cities.  Laura Bliss elaborates, "In some of them, including Colmbus, customers can pay for delivery speeds of one hour and faster" (myfox28columbus.com; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018).  Rick Stein conceded, One-hour delivery, for every U.S. market is inevitable.  Perhaps,within the next few years.

Will Amazon be the first online retailer to make one-hour or less delivery the standard?  Maybe.  Given its recent acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods, Amazon has "a real-estat foothold in nearly 500 locations near affluent households.  Or maybe it's Walmart, with its 5,000 locations and strong presence in more rural communities."  Speaking at Urbanism Next, a conference dedicated to autonomous vehicles, e-commerce, and the sharing economy hosted by the University of Oregon, Mtr. Stein commented, Their reach is absolutely insane.

Maybe pharmacy chain CVS will beat out Amazon and Walmart.  "Some 82 percent of the U.S. population lives within a 15-minute drive of its 11,000 locations."  Yours Truly lives within a short walk to two CVS stores.  At the current pace of corporate mergers and acquisition (businessinsider.com; Aug. 25, 2018; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018), real estate footholds at advancing at a rapid clip.  Imagine if Amazon absorbed CVS, as its widely speculated move into the drugstore business (qz.com; Dec. , 2017; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018)?  This prize would establish the e-commerce behemoth with "a convenient 'hub and spoke' network for snap-of-the-finger deliveries in virtually every U.S.market."  If you go to citylab.com; Mar. 8, 2018, you can view the map generated by Mr. Stein which illustrates the hub-and-spoke concept in the Columbus region.

It is theoretical, when you come to think of it.  Regardless which corporate giant starts one-hour deliver or when, brick and mortar retail will likely suffer a serious blow, once it becomes easier to shop from the comfort of your own home.  Working with Jason Sudy and Justin Robbins, consultants at Side Street Plann OHM Advisors respectively, Mr. Stein developed a tool for predicting which developed commercial property is most vulnerable to financial losses and closures.  They used data from InfoGroup, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Forbes, to create a model that takes into account several determinants: location, the mix of retail in a given area, population density, homeownership rates, income, the age of the structure, parking, and household spending in metropolitans around the U.S.

Laura Bliss writes, "Different development patterns are more susceptible to vacanies and flipping than others, the model shows--especially when layering on the eventual arrival of autonomous vehicles."  Self-driving technology holds the potential to dramatically reduce parking needs, reduce the cost of delivery, and easily carry shoppers to more desirable locations, like a walkable downtown area, where shopping is more of "experience."  However, the first thing makers of self-driving technology will have to do is get over users' queasiness about autonomous vehicles and make them safer.  Be that as it may, the more desirable retail locations will be in a better position to withstand the coming retail-pocalypse, based on the template's projections.  Suburban strip malls and big-box stores with acreage  dedicated to parking, could end up worse off.

Jason Sudy, a panel co-presenter, said,

In markets like Columbus, which are already ready to deliver tons of stuff fast, overbuilt retail space might not die out in slow atrophy.... It could be a calamitous collapse.

This could result a lot of very visible retail blight dotting the suburban highway corridors.  Most important, it creates a troubling financial picture for communities that rely on retail for much needed tax dollars (theatlantic.com; May 23, 2017; date accessed Mar. 19, 2018)--"not only from the lost stores themselves but also from the potential devaluation of surrounding properties."  The Columbus, Ohio metropolitan regions has about four percent of gross leasable area in the "most vulnerable" category, according to Messr. Stein, Sudy, and Robbin's estimates.  Go to the map at citylab.com; March 8, 2018 where you can see the areas in red indicate the most susceptible while the green areas are the least.  Consider this, "If all of those properties flooded the real estate market at once, land values would flipped on their heads."  Mr. Sudy said, 

Already, we don't collect enough taxes to pay for fire services., the infrastructure, and all the stuff we have to do.

Using the city of Atlanta, Georgia as an example, "six percent of GLA is ripe to flip."

The Stein, Sudy, Robbins presentation focused on the Columbus area, where they are based.  Their model is just a model.  "It's based on an imperfect mix of data, and a number of assumptions about the future--for example, that AVs will be uniformly adopted at all, without other interventions from transit agencies or other technologies."  Drones are an example of equally disruptive forces as autonomous vehicles.  Further, one-hour or less delivery may not be as close as Rick Stien would like to believe.  Panel co-presenter Kelly Rula said, We don't really know what the next five years will look like.   

Kelly Rula was recently hired by the Seattle Department of Transportation to work on new mobility, climate, and urban freight issues after working on final mile delivery for Amazon Prime.

Subtracting AVs from the equation, it become quite clear that a storm on the horizon.  Laura Bliss writes, "With taxable land already over-allocated to retail and parking, changing shopping habits, and ever-faster delivery, self-driving cars will only accelerate the changes already happening."  Communities are not exactly ready for what is here, as well as what is ahead: "more empty buildings, a harder economic punch from the lost retail and heavier road I pats of increased goods delivery."

Justin Robbins said, "At the very least, new developments should be future-proofed against blight and hits to tax revenue.  Essentially,

Don't build any parking garages you can't adapt to other uses.... Create internal rids and roadways on large new developments, so that you can fill in as things change.

To mitigate transportation map acts, Kelly Rula suffered that "cities could follow Seattle's example by studying food movements, testing dedicated loading zones and sensor-enabled curbs, and looking at road pricing to mitigate added deliveries, in additions to human trips." 

Communities might want to consider adaptive reuse of vacant retail space as it becomes available.  Can dead and dying malls be reused for housing, museums, or office space?

Whatever the case, Mr. Stein told CityLab, "cities anticipating and preparing for the future are more likely to come out winners. Those who aren't--perhaps by dint of their economic inability to plan ahead--could be choking on the fumes."

Rick Stein used this analogy,

Technology is like wate,.... If you don't channel it where you want it to go, it spills all over the place.   


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Designing With Security In Mind

http://www.wsj.com; March 13, 2018

Hello Everyone:

This morning, while scanning the news, a well written article written by Tawnell D. Hobbs in The Wall Street Journal, titled "Designing a School to Stop Shooters," caught Blogger's attention.  The article profiles the brand new George W. Bush Elementary School in the affluent neighborhood of St. Paul, Dallas, Texas.  The enhanced safety measures are intentionally designed into the plan in order to stop a would-be school shooter.  As is the usual case following a school shooting, there are calls for arming teachers, increased mental health and school safety spending, et cetera ad infinitum.  However, what gets overlooked, admittedly Blogger did this too, is how to build schools that incorporate enhanced security features so that the possibility of a mass school shooting can be mitigated.  Bush Elementary School is not the only school to design in safety features however, it is done in such a way that does not detract from its warmth.  Let us take a look at what measures were built into the George W. Bush Elementary School.

The first thing a visitor notices when approaching the Bush Elementary School is the sparse landscape and windows facing the street.  This affords administrators and staff a clear view of who or what is coming toward the school.  Entering the school is a multi-step process.  Ms. Hobbs explains, "Visitors enter a vestibule and must be buzzed inside the main office.  From there, a government-issued ID must be scanned through a system call the 'Raptor,' which alerts for child molestors and anyone flagged to keep out."  Blogger experienced something similar over the summer, going to an appointment on the west side of Los Angeles.  It is a minor hassle and one would be well advised to allow for extra time.

Another noticeable element at George W. Bush Elementary School are the wide corridors, devoid of any niches or alcoves, making it harder to hide from the omni-present video surveillance.  The video footage is watched by school administrators and police in patrol cars.

Ian Halperin, the spokesperson for the Wylie Independent School District where the Bush Elementary School is located, told The Journal, Every time there's a school shooting, we try to learn something from them.  The district does conduct regular lock down drills, full time security officers receive regular live shooter training and have strong ties to local enforcement, "including regular meetings and providing officers with key cards and access codes so they can rapidly enter schools.  

The above design elements and procedures are increasingly typical (wsj.com; May 21, 2015; date accessed) in the 98,000 across the United States in response to growing concerns about how to stop a would-shooter(s) (Ibid; Feb. 23, 2018) and improve school safety, especially after the Valentine's Day (Ibid; Feb. 15, 2018) shooting that left 17 people dead.

Tawnell D. Hobbs reports, "Since 1990, there have 32 shootings in schools [Ibid] where at least three people were killed or injured according to a Wall Street Journal review [Ibid]."  That is an average of one school shooting per year.  That is one shooting too many.  There is no rhyme or reason for it.  You cannot point to a particular locale or reason why it is what it is.  The only thing you can do is try learn from each occurrence and plan for it, which is what the Bush Elementary School and the 97,999 other schools are trying to do.  The students and their allies are not waiting around for the next shooting, they are taking to the streets.  Tomorrow, students around the nation are expected to take part in anti-gun violence protests (Ibid; Mar. 13, 2018).  Please support them whether or not you are a parent, teacher, administrator, school staff member, own a gun or not.

It is not just the Bush Elementary School that is designing in safety measures.  Ms. Hobbs writes, "School administrators are pairing law-enforcement personnel or safety experts with architectural firms to design new campus and renovate older ones."

For example, a school opened last year in Quincy, Illinois.  Superintendent Roy Webb told The Journal "which allow a security officer to lock down building sections with a push of a button.,  He said, We can mitigate a lot of risks.

 Last week, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law (Ibid) a bill that commits $400 million toward school safety and mental-health services.  Minnesota's governor is following suit, asking the state legislature to set aside $20.9 million, meanwhile Maryland's governor is earmarking $175 for improvements such as panic buttons, security camera, funding for school resource officers and counselors.  Federal efforts to increase school security are also in process (Ibid. Mar.9, 2018).

These greater push to increase school security does come with this caveat.  Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safet Center in California, told Ms. Hobbs,

When you have someone who's a committed shooter, they're going to find a way to get on the campus.... I just tell schools to do everything you can.

Wise words.

In the meantime, the George W. Bush Elementary School is the picture of happy calm.  The corridors are decorated with student artwork and inspirational messages.  The students move in an orderly fashion, single file, passing the big presidential seal in the foyer, under the watchful gaze of discreetly placed security camera.  Principal Maricela Helm is pleased with campus.  She is happy that the security measures do not take away from the warm and inviting atmosphere of the school, which opened in 2016 with room for 900 students.  She told The Journal, We've developed a good culture while being more alert, more ready.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Which Side Are The Cities On?

http://www.citylab.com; March 1, 2018

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Power to the students who to part in the National Walkout today.  Blogger is so proud of you, the teachers and administrators who support your  free speech.  Fair warning to all elected officials, across the United States, some of these "children" will be old enough to vote in the midterm elections.  They will remember which side of the gun control issue you are on.  Speaking of what side of the issue you are on, where are the mayors?

Sad to report that it took the horrific killing of seventeen people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, to force a serious national conversation on gun control.  Some perceive mass shootings as a mental health issue and in the case of school shootings, a school safety issue.  Gun control advocates point their collective fingers (metaphorically speaking) at the widespread availability of assault-type weapons and ammunition.  Truthfully, mass shootings are the product of all the above and more.  It is not an issue that will be easily resolved with a few feel good laws, federal commissions, definitely not lame thoughts and prayers.  One way to get the need for sensible gun control message across is with your wallet.  The decision to not to (or to) patronize a company, like Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart, that sell guns sends a powerful message to said company it will not be supported until changes are made.

Recently, Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart took a more proactive approach on the issue of gun.  One Wednesday February 28, Dick's released a forceful media statement,

We at DICK'S Sporting Goods are deeply disturbed and saddened by the tragic events in Parkland.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones.

But thoughts and prayers are not enough....(Ibid)

 Dick's announced that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles and bump-stocks, sell high-capacity magazines to anyone under the age of 21 (pressroom.dicks.com; Feb. 28, 2018; date accessed Mar. 12, 2018).  Further, they listed certain demands upon elected officials: Ban assault-type weapons, raise the minimum age a person can buy a weapon to 21, require universal background checks including relevant mental health information and previous interactions with law enforcement (Ibid).  Following suit, Walmart announced that it would raise the age limit. 

Kriston Capps writes in his CityLab article "Businesses Spurn the NRA.  Where Are the Mayors?," "A national debate about gun policy has turned into a consumer politics arguments about the NRA itself.  Major airlines, rental-car companies, retailers, insurers, and other firms have all ended their agreements with the NRA [chicagotribune.com; Mar. 1, 2018; date accessed Mar. 6, 2018] since the Parkland massacre."

As corporations drop their sponsorship of the National Rifle Association, the question becomes what will the mayors of NRA convention host cities do?  It seems that the civic leaders in the position to say something and have responded, in some cases, with deafening silence.  For example, Dallas City Council begged the organization (citylab.com; Feb. 20, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) to reconsider hosting its convention the city this coming May.  Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said, "he shares those concerns, the contract is already."  Like a lot of cities, Dallas pays the NRA a great deal of money to host the annual convention and its attendees.

However, other host cities have not followed Dallas' example.  Mr. Capps reports, "Leaders from the circuit of Bible Belt cities that frequently host the NRA have followed suit are slow to jump into the public debate over the group."  In 2010, then-Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced that she would happy to host the organization, like in 2010, when "Charlotte paid the NRA $150,000 in free rent at the convention center plus  $15,000 in cash.  (That was less memorable than in 2000 , when Charlton Heston lifted a rifle over his head telling NRA convention attendees in Charlotte that if Al Gore want his gun, he'd have to pry it from his 'cold dead hands [weeklystandard.com; May 1, 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018]')."  Charlotte's current Mayor Vi Lyles declined to tell CityLab whether or not the city would continue to support the NRA.  Kriston Capps points that the city "recently submitted a bid to hold the 2020 Republican National Convention."

Of the seventeen cities that played host to NRA conventions over the past twenty-five years, only one has absolutely committed to never bringing the organization back: big surprise, Seattle.  Amazingly, Seattle, one of the bluest of the blue cities, did play host to the organization for one and so far, last time in 1997.  Mayor Jenny Durkan told CityLab,

The minute the NRA stands for responsible gun ownership nod supports policies that will save lives in Seattle and every other city, then we might be willing to discuss it.

The Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri Sly James showed similar backbone.  A spokesperson told CityLab,

If the NRA changes certain positions on common-sense gun-safety laws he would entertain talking to the organization.

Kriston Capps writes, "A spokesperson for the city of Phoenix, which hosted the NRA convention in 1995 and 2009, said that the city has no current plans to bring the convention back to town."  However, City Council member Thelda Williams said "that the city complete a $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center with an eye toward hosting large conventions like the NRA.  Ms. Williams said in a statement, We would welcome a repeat visit.

Orlando, the site of the horrific 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 50 including the shooter, has not ruled out a repeat visit from the NRA convention.  A spokesperson for Mayor Buddy Dyer deferred to the county, saying "Orlando's conventon center belongs to Orange County, Florida."  Mr. Capps notes, "The county did not respond to an inquiry." 

Breaking news:  Flipped. A very well earned congratulations to Conor Lamb (D-PA18) on his razor thin victory over Republican Rick Saccone.  This proves that every vote counts.  If you have not registered to vote, go to vote.gov for information and do not forget to cast your ballot.  Alright back to the post.

As Yours Truly was saying, Mr. Capps observed that "the Orange County Convention Center is probably too small to host the NRA convention today--not unless it completes the  $500 million expansion [orlandosentinel.com, Oct. 29 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018] under discussion."  Charlotte may lack both the hotels and convention space (bizjournals.com; Feb. 27, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) to suit an NRA gathering.  The city of St. Louis, where the group gathered in 2007 and 2012 is planning a $120 million in convention center improvement (stltoday; Feb. 18, 2016; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018), which would retain its elite status metropolitan read eligible to bid six figures on the NRA convention.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts would like to bring the NRA convention to his state--tweeting this on Friday March 9, 2018 (twitter.com; Mar. 9, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018)--but there is no city large enough to play host.  Mr. Capps writes, "An average NRA convention, with an attendance size of 70,000 members, would rank as Nebraskas third-largest city."

Refusing to host the NRA convention on free speech grounds may not be a viable options for civic leaders.  Contested legal space: After Dallas banned Exxxotica from renting its convention center in  February 2016 (dallasnews.com; May 12, 2016; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018), pornographic convention sues.  The case is currently on appeal (Ibid; June , 2016).  There is no doubt whatsoever that the NRA would aggressively respond to any and all local efforts to keep guns out.

However, it is federal politicians, not local politicians, that would feel the brunt of the NRA's wrath if they shun the organization.  The organization typically does not bother with state campaigns, giving a 
paltry $309,000 spread out over 500 contributions in 2016 and 2017 races according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics (followthemoney.org; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018).  In Orange County, California, the NRA's only listed donation (Ibid) in a local was to Republican Todd Spitzer, who received $1,600 for his supervisor campaigns.  Of course, this is not to dismiss the "NRA's massive influence in mobilizing voters (nytimes.com; Feb. 24, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) through issue spending and member outreach."  What could be worse for a big city Democrat than an "F" grade on guns?

Currently, only a few cities are large enough and southern enough to play host to the 70,000 member strong NRA.  Among the cities are: Dallas, Atlanta, Louisville, Nashville, Houston, and Phoenix, most of whom are repeat hosts.  Tallahassee, Florida Mayor Andrew Gillum took on the NRA last and won (citylab.com; Feb. 7, 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018)--now he is running for governor.  He is campaigning to be Florida's next governor with the message of stricter gun control (andrewgillum.com; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) and local freedom from state preemption (citylab.com; Jan. 6, 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018).  His call for stricter gun control will resonate loudly in the wake of the Parkland shooting and the passage of Florida's luke warm gun control bill.

Mayor Gillum's "common-sense gun-safety proposals" (wtxl.com; (citylab.com; Feb. 15, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) are aligned with the proposals proposed by Dick's Sporting Goods.  Additionally, pension funds are under pressure to to divest from gun manufacturers.  While previous calls for divestiture have never made a dent (citylab.com; June 15, 2016; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) in gun company stocks, gun manufactures are more susceptible to changes in the market place (bloomberg.com; Feb. 26, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) for reasons that, surprisingly, little to do with the shootings in Parkland, Orlando, and Las Vegas.  Public outrage that produces action from retailers can only result in more losses in gun manufacturer stocks (marketwatch.com; Feb. 28, 2018;  date accessed Mar. 14, 2018).

What do we want? Gun control! Mayor Gillum's rallying cry to a column of 1,000 students from Florida State University and others marching to the state capitol.  In the past, the call for gun control would have gone unheeded but now things are different.  Public opinion and corporate sympathies may finally be falling on the right side of the issue.  

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: What To Expect When You Run For Office

Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Silly season is upon us.  It is officially the midterm election cycle.  Between the newly arrived primary season and November's general election, we will be bombarded with pleas from congressional and gubernatorial candidates, from parties, for our vote. Yours Truly would like to focus on a couple subjects: What to expect and what the candidates should do if they want to be successful.  Before we get going, Blogger wants to apologize for not posting yesterday.  Blogger had a massive headache and a swollen eye (Yours Truly poked herself in the eye trying to fish out a contact lense).  The combined to make writing impossible.  Onward and upward.

First of all, what should we expect in the 2018 midterms?  We can expect a lot between now and November.  The short answer is the success or failure of a particular party will depend on how the country feels about Mr. Donald Trump and a variety of issues.  In their Brookings Institution article "The Primaries Project: What to expect in the 2018 Midterm," (brookings.edu; Mar. 5, 2018; date accessed Mar. 7, 2018) Elaine Kamarck and Alexander Podkul write, "These primaries will also tell us a great deal about the divisions within each political party, and about what we can expect from the Congress that will convene in 2019."

The Brookings Primaries Project (Ibid) will be examining and presenting real facts as we make our way through the season.  Taking a look at the political landscape, the Republicans incumbents are facing increased competition from their Democratic challengers from two important sources.  The co-authors report, "...many more Republicans incumbents are being primaried (i.e. challenged) by well-funded opponents from their own party.  Second, in a telling measure, there are many more competitive Democratic primaries in Republican-held, in a telling measure, there are many more competitive Democratic primaries in Republican-held districts than competitive Republican primaries in Democratic-held districts."  Competitive elections can emanate from more higher-quality candidates.  This attracts media attention.  Thus, more Repbulican incumbents will have to face better-funded challengers and better-funded and test general elections rivals who can garner media attention-something incumbents dread.  Further, there are over twice as many Republican retirements as Democratic retirement in the House of Representives-an indication that members are leaving because they believe it is going to be a bad year for their party.

As of today, it is all speculation and not much agreement on the possible outcomes.  If you cruise the social media, hashtags #bluewave and #bluetsunami, are pretty popular.  The implication being that the Democrats will take over Congress and be a "powerful counterforce to President Trump."  Others seem to believe that the "blue wave" will not be as strong because of  healthy economy and the tendency for Democrats to shoot themselves in their collective feet.  Before we look forward, it is helpful to take a look back at what the 2014 and 2016 (Ibid; Sept. 2014) (Ibid; Jan. 2017) primaries revealed.
The co-authors write, "The status of the horse isn't the only revealing element of congressional primaries, however.  Studying the candidates who are running in these primaries also tells us a great deal about the division within and between the political parties.  Here is what the co-authors found studying 2014 and 2016:

House incumbents were consistently re-nominated (only three sitting members lost a primary in 2014 and only five lost in 2016)

Progressive Democratics candidates made up nearly 30 percent of Democratic primary candidates in 2016.

Conservative Republicans candidates made up 50 percent of Republican primary candidates in 2016.

The top issues mentioned by Republican candidates in 2016 were taxes, Obamacare, immigration, debt, and the Second Amendment while top issues for Democratic candidates were Obamacare, Social Security, education, the minimum wage, and climate change.

Primary margins of victory for incumbents have been consistent across the past two cycles with median margins near 50 percent for Republicans and near 65 percent for Democrats...

In 2016 a presidential primary year [we wrote] "The drama in the presidential primaries, however, has not been mirrored in the congressional primaries.  [While we] see more divisiveness at the congressional level among Repbulicans than among Democrats, the levels are small...

In addition to studying the congressional candidates in 2016, the co-authored looked at the voters in congressional primaries.  In their paper (Ibid; Jan. 2017), the co-authors asked the question, Are primary voters different?  Sort of, here is what they found:

Republican voters were more likely to say that they chose to support their preferred House candidate because that candidate "shares my values" or "can bring about needed change" while Democratic voters were more likely to support a candidate who "has the right experience" or "cares about people like me"

On demographics, we found primary voters to be older and more educated than the general public.

What can we learn from the two previous cycles?  We learn that "the congressional primaries were nearly predictive of what happened in Congress."  One glaring lesson we learned from the 2016 congressional election is "Republican majorities were focused on two issues that were at the top of the agenda form most congressional primary candidates: passing a tax cut bill, on which they succeeded, and repealing Obamacare, which they failed."  Additionally, as the Republican Party continues to fall under the control of the very conservative Republicans, the Democratic caucuses have taken on a more moderate tone.  However, Elaine Kamarck and Alexander Podkul caution, "Both of which could have been anticipated from the factional divisions apparent in the congressional primaries."

What can we expect this year?  For the Republicans, pay attention to what degree "Trumpism"--"sharing the president's issue positions and attitudes toward government"--has filtered down to the congressional primary level.  Who are the Trump mini-me running in this year's primaries and how successful they wil be, particularly how successful they will be against more mainstream Repbulican candidates.  For the Democrats, the key thing to watch is the resurgence of the progressives--a byproduct of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) near-successful run for president in 2016.  Look for whether or not there more self-proclaimed progressives running and whether they are specifically aligning themselves with Sen. Sanders and his movement.

Both the Democratic and Repbulican parties are big enough to accommodate multiple points of view. Over the next several months we will look at how specific issues are filtered through multiple perspectives and at some of the races.  Speaking of candidates, what will it take to win a seat in the Senate or House of Representatives?

The formula is simple, tell the voters about yourself.  Voters want to know about you, where you come from, what motivated you to run.  Be your real self.  While this may annoy some campaign managers but voters will relate to you being you, instead of some blow dried candidate.  Tell your constituents what you stand for and how that separates you from the pack.  We want to know how your positions will translate into policy.  Can you connect them to our values.  One big do not do is make your campaign about the president.  Yes, the scandal plagued Trump administration is front and center but your campaign is not a referendum on the administration.  These are just Blogger's suggestion, hopefully some one will pay attention.